Chapter 1

December 24 1996

Looking back at the fall term, Harry smiled fondly. He had learned as much about himself and living as he did with his subjects. Leadership was a badge that while worn with honor, carried a heavy burden. Six months ago at this time, Harry was raging at Dumbledore for manipulating people like pawns in some invisible chess game. Harry may be the king piece in this particular game, but every pawn, knight and bishop was precious to him. Harry had come to realize that influence, leadership and trust were more powerful than simple authority.

Yet nothing was ever perfect. Harry still had lingering doubts about that morning in Yorkshire regarding Umbridge and Bellatrix. The message that he'd received assured him that Umbridge would be alone. The addition of Bellatrix Lestrange changed the equation completely. Looking back, it was a miracle that no one had been killed. Harry recalled that things were touch and go with Tonks barely surviving. Harry was reminded of the words that Poppy had spoken to him last summer. "I know this much Harry - We are at war. People die in battle…I am suggesting that you leave the blame for their deaths on the shoulders of their killers where it belongs."

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Harry remembered arriving back to the castle the Wednesday before term started. Hagrid had seen him appear at the station and walked with him back to the castle. Hagrid had told him, "Harry, t'aint no better job anywhere in the wizarding world than right here. If things go right for ya, you'll have your pick of any job in the wizarding world. Dumbledore did. He chose to work with the kids, and learn em up right. Ya mark my words, Harry. This place is the best."

They walked the rest of the way to the castle and parted ways. Harry found the Apprentice living quarters on the third floor corridor between the library and the Great Hall. If anything Dumbledore had understated the size and elegance of them. Opening the door he entered the common room that the four of them would share. It had a large worktable, six chairs and two sofas. On either side there were doors leading to two small bedrooms each containing a bed, a small closet, a study desk and a chair. At the end of the common room there was a nice bathroom and a fireplace. All in all the accommodations were excellent. Harry selected the room farthest away from the bathroom without the window, knowing that his roommates would value the proximity or the view more than he would.

Harry settled in, and thirty minutes later answered a gentle knock on the outer door. Professor Dumbledore was there to make certain that Harry had found his way and was making himself at home. He gave Harry a key to the Defense office that he would share with Moody. They talked about lesson plans and the old Professor suggested that Harry visit with Flitwick to get some teaching skill ideas.

Harry visited with Flitwick as Dumbledore had suggested. Flitwick described different teaching styles, and the importance of verifying that the students had enough background information to understand the topic that he was trying to show them. Harry listened as Flitwick described the challenge of transitioning from peer to leader, and made suggestions that Harry could try. He impressed Harry by mentioning that people learn differently and at different rates, suggesting that Harry explain what they would be doing, the practical application for it, demonstrate it, allow questions, and finally let people try it. After they had tried it, Flitwick suggested that Harry show them a second time to reinforce what he'd taught them, allowing the little gaps in knowledge to be filled. Harry came to realize that defense had many dimensions, ranging from recognizing dangerous situations and responding by simply running away or hiding, up to the Auror level tactics that he'd employed during the summer.

Given that the first and second year students had little real knowledge of spellwork at that level, Harry realized that he could work within the curriculum that he'd been given to use and deliver a very good learning experience by helping the students learn very basic fighting skills. Harry had noticed a disappointing starting level of these skills the year before when they'd had the DA group and knew them to be a great starting point.

Dumbledore had initially offered Harry the Defense Instructor's living quarters, but Harry had quickly declined, realizing that he had a fantastic arrangement with the people that he was closest with. With respect to the meals, the group was welcome to eat at their old house tables, the staff table or in their own area as the need arose.

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Harry was called to visit Poppy that evening. She had been in contact with her colleague Healer Crabtree. Pomfrey had never tested anyone for being a natural healer before. Crabtree hadn't either, so there was no structured testing methodology to use. Poppy examined the evidence as she knew it.

-At the time Tonks was near death and expected to die.

-Harry visited her.

-An hour and a half later she was conscious.

-Harry spent another half hour alone with her.

-Tonks condition began to rapidly improve.

-Dumbledore had confided in confidence that Harry also had morphing ability.

-Tonks had been coaching Harry in skill development and she knew that they were close.

At the time that Harry had visited her, Tonks' liver and kidneys were shutting down and brain function had all but stopped. According to Crabtree, she had been expected to die that evening. As it was now, Tonks would be released from St. Mungo's in no more than a week or two.

Poppy wondered if it was spontaneous, or if Harry had consciously done something to help her. Knowing that Harry was intrinsically a very private person, she decided to proceed with caution. She did not want to strain the good working relationship that they shared. She asked Harry to come and see her that evening after dinner. Harry had no clue of her intended topic.

He walked into the hospital wing and found her working with one of the practice mannequins. She demonstrated that Tonks had effectively bled out. A woman of her size and weight had about eight pints of blood in her body, and blood pressure would have dropped nearly to zero with the loss of five pints. She measured five pints of water and poured them onto the floor making a puddle about the size that Harry had seen on his garage floor a week ago.

"So you can see that Tonks mostly had potion running through her veins at the time she was portkeyed to St. Mungo's." Harry nodded. Poppy continued. "Harry, Healer Crabtree said that you told her that Tonks' heart stopped at two AM. How did you know?"

Harry replied, "Tonks more or less adopted me as her younger brother over the summer. I had a vision or dream of her at that time, and then woke up."

"OK. So the next day she was in grave condition by the time you went to see her. Please tell me what happened."

Harry stammered his way into an explanation. He was obviously embarrassed about something. Poppy didn't want to ruin the moment, but really wanted to know what happened. She led him to one of the adult female mannequins and asked him to show her what he'd done. Harry climbed on top of the table and held the mannequin to him.

She asked, "Harry, are you sure that's exactly the way that you were doing it?" Red faced Harry moved his hand to the mannequin's breast and told her that he'd held her like that for nearly an hour. Realizing that the young man was extremely embarrassed, she went to her office and found him a butterbeer, and had a pumpkin juice herself.

"Harry, how did you feel when Dumbledore got there?"

"I was tired. I remember that he noticed and made a portkey for me to use to get home with. I went back home and took a nap for an hour or so."

"Harry, according to Healer Crabtree, Tonks should have been buried today. How do you think she got better?"

"I dunno. I just felt her arm. It seemed so cold. I just tried to warm her up a bit. I didn't mean to grope her or anything."

She smiled at him. "Whatever you did, I'm certain was done with honorable intentions." With an absolutely straight face, she said, "I'm certain that she wouldn't have minded under any circumstances. Were you thinking about anything special as you were holding her?"

Harry thought about her question for a few minutes before answering, "I just wanted her to warm up and wake up. I didn't really think about anything else except how worried I was about her."

"Harry, I'm not trying to pry into your personal life, but have you ever been intimate with Tonks?"

Beet red, Harry asked, "Please be specific. What exactly are you asking? We've never made love if that's what you're referring to."

"She smiled at him. "That's specifically what I was asking about. From the way that you qualified your answer, I'm speculating that the two of you have a close relationship. Is that a fair statement?"

"Madam Pomfrey, like I said, Tonks is my unofficially adopted big sister. As such, I love her very much. We've had our clothes off together in regards to practicing morphing. Did I answer your question?" His face looked like a boiled lobster.

"Yes. You did fine." She gave him a little hug. "Again Harry, I didn't mean to embarrass you. This conversation will never go any further, I promise you." Harry nodded. She asked, "Can I ask you a few more questions?"


"Harry, injuries or alcohol related incidents aside, when was the last time that you were sick?"

"I dunno. I don't remember being sick."

She nodded. "Harry, one last question. Have you ever held another girl like you held Tonks?"

"Only Ginny."

"OK. Thank you Harry, I appreciate the candidness of your answers. Again, this conversation won't go any further. Goodnight Harry."

"Goodnight, Madam Pomfrey."

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Further testing indicated that Harry did indeed possess an ability to heal those that he loved. Pomfrey kept her word about Harry holding Tonks. As with most of his abilities, Dumbledore recommended that Harry did not disclose the information to anyone who did not need to know.

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Harry remembered the joy that he'd felt when the other Apprentices arrived the next day. They had grown so close that being apart was almost painful. They selected their rooms and quickly settled in. They organized their study area, and helped Harry organize the space for his classroom. Dumbledore had found Harry a spare classroom. Hermione had transfigured floor mats almost identical to the ones that Harry had purchased for his own training room. The only thing missing in it was a weight training set. On the last day before the students arrived, the teens took a trip to Harrods. Harry purchased a set identical to what they had. Hermione shrunk the boxes and charmed them to be feather light. They had lunch in a local pub, apparated back to school, and set up the equipment.

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Harry's first week of school was quite a bit different than the previous years. Dumbledore had asked the apprentices to sit at the staff table for the welcoming feast wearing their gray robes. After the sorting ceremony and the meal, he stood up and addressed the students.

"Now that you are all fed and watered, I have a few announcements. The forbidden forest remains that – forbidden to students. Indeed, there are a few creatures in there that don't take kindly to unannounced visits." There were smiles from some of the older Gryffindors at these words. He continued. "You can read the list of items that Mr. Filch has added to his list of forbidden objects. It would seem that he has been spending much of his holiday visiting the Weasley brothers marvelous shop." There was laughter and a bit of applause at those remarks. Looking over, Harry saw Filch scowl as if his world had come to an end. Filch felt that punishment was the best response to 99 percent of the student's activities.

Dumbledore continued. "On a more serious note, many of you are probably aware that Voldemort has been active in the fifteen months since he has returned. In that time he had corrupted people, destroyed homes, directly and indirectly murdered people. This summer Voldemort and his Death Eaters murdered two of our own students. Please raise your glass in remembrance of Miss Luna Lovegood and Mr. Ron Weasley."

As the school had done with Cedric Diggory, the students and the staff rose and as one said, "To Luna Lovegood, and to Ron Weasley."

Dumbledore continued. "Twelve of our former students were also lost this summer to Voldemort and his Death Eaters." He named the names of the Aurors and Hit Wizards who had been lost in the July raid at the Grangers.

There was absolute silence in the hall as he'd spoken those words. After a moment, he continued. "The tally is not entirely one sided. As school was ending last year, eleven Death Eaters were captured. In July another Death Eater had been captured. In the month of August, five Death Eaters were captured. During that time another eleven sacrificed their lives serving Voldemort's dark cause." There was a solid round of applause at this news. Most of the students were unaware of the numbers, as they had only been vaguely reported in the Daily Prophet.

He continued. "The need to be versed in the defense against the dark arts cannot be overstated. As such, the board of school governors has allowed me to provide you with what I believe is the strongest team of defense instructors offered during your lifetime." There was another solid round of applause. "Leading our defense teaching effort this year will be retired Master Auror, Professor Moody. Professor Moody was impersonated two years ago, and the real Moody has agreed to teach the third through seventh year defense classes." There was a mixture of polite and enthusiastic applause. Moody simply looked too intimidating to warm up to.

Dumbledore began again. "Serving in the role of Instructor for the first and second year defense classes this year is a man who had been battling the dark forces his entire life. He was directly or indirectly involved in apprehending many of the Death Eaters that I previously mentioned. He has agreed to provide an outstanding foundation for our first and second year students. I am of course referring to our very own – Harry Potter."

The hall erupted with cheering and applause. Dumbledore stood with the other staff as they welcomed Harry and Alastor. After a minute Dumbledore resumed. "In potions, replacing Severus Snape is another exceptional Instructor who I'm certain will excel here. I would like to introduce you to Professor Daily. Professor Daily has had a successful career in potions research at St. Mungo's. I believe she will be an outstanding addition. She will also be serving as head of Slytherin house."

While not at the level of the announcement of Harry's appointment, the announcement that the students wouldn't have to spend another minute in class with Snape was met with widespread approval. Hermione and Susan noticed that the announcements were equally well received by each of the houses. Finally Dumbledore mentioned that he had taken on four apprentices and indicated that they would be spending the majority of their time away from the other students.

Looking around, Neville noticed that the sixth year Slytherins were effectively gone from the school. He looked around at the other tables and noticed that Marietta was gone too. Between the loss of Snape, the Slytherins, Umbridge and the addition of Moody, Harry and Professor Daily, it was looking to be a kinder, gentler school.

It turned out that Neville was at least half right. It was a kinder school as evidenced by the first week. He hadn't lost a house point or been insulted once. Neville was taking Herbology and Potions with the idea of doing medical research as a career. McGonagall had personally introduced him to Professor Daily, identifying him as a high potential student. Five minutes of discussion led the two to realize that they had much in common, even if from different perspectives. Potions quickly became one of his favorite classes. Whether the school would prove to be gentler to those still advocating the dark arts remained to be seen.

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